Sprinting to Swapit for iPhone and iPad

As you might remember, we’ve started our race for launching on iOS in the middle of February by hiring Vito for that very task. It took us a couple of weeks to get up to speed and build the core foundation of Swapit on the iOS platform.

As you also might remember from my blog post over a year ago about Choosing a Platform for Swapit,  we’ve been building our backend infrastructure on top of the Google Cloud Platform. The great thing about that is, we are building Swapit for massive scale from the ground-up. Our current growth rate of 100% month-over-month over the past 2 quarters, we have so far seen zero impact on the performance of our backend platform. At the same time, out Total Cost of Ownership remain very low as well. So that was an outstanding choice of platform.

Going, Running, Sprinting to iOS

swapit-blog_leapNow, one of Swapit’s major road blocks to world domination is our missing presence on the iPhone. It’s not the only road block, but it’s a major one. When we raised our funding in December and again raised in February, one of the milestones we have attached to that funding was to bring Swapit to the iPhone and iPad as quickly as possible.

Just an hour ago, I submitted the Swapit beta 1.2 for iOS to Apple’s TestFlight. That is actually our 3rd beta, which we are testing with a very small group of testers right now. With each beta, we are increasing the number of beta testers for Swapit. In fact, we are building sprints every week that are being released to our beta testers. We a somewhat much leaner version of how sprints are defined in Scrum. Our goal is, to ship a new beta release each week, which we have been doing for the past 3 weeks already.

It is very challenging for developers to be able to deliver a working product release every week. Our team is doing their best to hold the schedule. It’s hard work, but it is definitely worth it! Having a working release of the whole app at pretty much any time during the development process, offers so many upsides: launching every week keeps our beta testers happy, they know we’re progressing and moving fast forward. At any time, we can fix a serious issue might arise in a release, which was launched a couple of days ago. So in the worst case scenario, users need to wait only a very short while to get their app fixed. At the same time, these rapid release cycles force us internally, to define small enough feature tasks that are doable within a day or two or at most a week.

Sprinting Around Corners and Cutting Short to Make the Goal

At the same time, we need to always keep our weekly release goal in mind. Even though, we might define small enough features and tasks to be completed within a week, sometimes some tasks and features suddenly turn up to be much more complex than anticipated. Therefore, we adjust the set of features and tasks for the next release in a very flexible way.

THE #1 GOAL IS TO SHIP!

There can only be one most important goal for any software / product development or basically any business related team, and that is to bloody ship your product. If you have the greatest product and never ship, who cares what it is? No one will ever use it, never ever will you be able to build a business out of that product. Almost everyone can build a product, some people might be able to finally ship and even fewer might be able to build a profitable business out of that.

We at Swapit believe, with a lot of passion and a lot more of hard work, we will be able to see it through and keep growing Swapit to a revenue generating business with very attractive profit margins.

IMG_20160325_0946483

At The Swapit Office: Get A Fresh Free Coffee And Remember What Is Really Important!
The Sign Reads: “TO SHIP is the most important feature!”

Swapit on iOS so far

Our Swapit beta 1.2 release is the most feature rich release we’ve launched so far. It is now already possible to view all items nearby, view item details (incl. pictures in gallery, price, category, condition, viewing statistics, locations, title, description, likes, comments), share items, report items, search items, show featured and highlighted items. All items in the list also sport all the information you need: image, price, distance, name, seller’s photo, likes and category.

Next week’s release will definitely sport some more features in Swapit on iOS. We’re constantly increasing the number of our beta testers for iOS. For those, who have left their contact details and haven’t received a download link yet: We will get to you very soon. We’ve got quite a number of people interested and we’re on-boarding new beta testers FIFO style. So please stay tuned. You’ll hear from us very soon!

Got an iPhone and want to check out Swapit?
Put your name on the Swapit for iOS beta list!

 

swapit-team_mugshot_patrickAbout the Author
Patrick is the Co-Founder and CEO of Swapit Limited. He has over 11 years experience in mobile and business in Asia through various ventures across very different domains. You can find our more about Patrick and the Swapit team at: http://www.swapit.la/#team

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Swapit is Featured as Recommended App on Google Play

swapit-google-play-featured_new-updatedSince last Friday Swapit has been featured in the “New and Updated Apps” category on Google Play. It is absolutely great to see Swapit in there, getting some recognition and coverage in our local home market.

Google Play has been a great app store for us so far. We’ve been able to push out new updates quickly. While we only announce larger app updates here on our blog, we did actually publish over 30 app binaries on Google Play over the past year. That’s almost one app update every one and half weeks on average! Many of those updates are based on our user’s feedback — especially when we introduce new product features which require refinement after wards. Being able to launch app updates and new innovative features quickly, is essential for us to being at the vanguard of innovation.

We are currently working on a new update of Swapit and will launch it very soon, actually. If you want to check out the current list of all recommended apps on Google Play, you can go to: https://play.google.com/store/recommended
(only when opening that link in Hong Kong, you’ll see Swapit in that list)

At this point, I’d like to personally thank the Google developer relations and Google Play team who helped us a lot with their feedback on Swapit. Because of their honest feedback, we were able to identify crucial points for improvement on Swapit in terms of Material Design principles as well as user experience / onboarding workflow. We know Swapit is still not perfect, but we are on a very good track on getting there. Thanks a lot! We do very much appreciate your help.

Do you use Swapit it? You can download it right here: http://get.swapit.la

Creating the swapit design language – colors, icons, fonts are very important

In mid-December 2014 we started actively working on swapit while the idea and concept of swapit has been floating around our heads since the mid of 2014. Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about how we approached the design, style and appearance of swapit.

We at S4BB Limited have been building thousands of apps for over a decade now. Our sister company Skylab Mobilesystems Limited with her Sky Drone project is actively working on a hardware product. We value the importance of style and what it says about our product.

1. Color

swapit-blog_color-codeAt the beginning there was the choice of color or more precisely color-scheme that we had to make a decision on. To be honest, with most of our other apps I give our design folks a rough idea and they usually come up with something amazing. This time, though, I read a lot about color schemes and for which products and services to choose which color. I took about 2 full days just to read up on choosing the right color in dozens of articles by app designers, psychologists, marketing people, industrial and product designers.

While it is pretty obvious to most people that the right color should be the one potential customers / users would associate your product or service, the less obvious recommendation by some authors was to choose a color that creates a certain (=desired) emotion when looking at it, in combination with the product’s name and presentation.

Many buy and sell apps use red for example, as their main color scheme. That makes sense, because red is commonly associated with “promotions” / “money saving” and generally is an ‘alarming’ color. Amongst others, there were two main reasons why I thought red would not be the right choice of color for swapit:

  1. Red as an ‘alarm’ has a bit of a negative touch to it.
  2. Some of our competitors use it and we need to shout out: “We’re different!”

Another important take away from the many articles and research papers I read was: “Choosing the color for a product should be a business decision.”
It should not left to the designer who will usually choose the color that looks best from a design-perspective, but the designer does not look beyond design at the actual target audience and the desired reaction that audience should experience when using a product.

The next best color that is somewhat related to retail, buying / selling and low prices is the color green. At the same time, green fits very well to swapit because we are not just about buying and selling items — swapit is called swapit because it is also built for swapping items or even giving them away for free. We believe this can help reduce unnecessary waste and swapit can – in its very own unique way – contribute to a greener and more environmentally friendly society.

The emotional response the swapit color-scheme green is supposed to create with our users could be summarized as: “environmentally friendly low cost trading of pre-loved items”.

2. App Icon

After the color was locked down, we went on working on the app icon of swapit. We were looking for an icon that

  1. Can be created with a single color (green);
  2. Shouts out LOCATION to communicate the location-reference at our core;
  3. Resembles the S of swapit or somehow the trading / buying / selling character;
  4. Is simple enough with some deeper complex meaning;
  5. Looks good even if the icon is small on low-res devices.

There were quite some hand-drawn designs. Here is a quick selection of those:

IMG_20150225_150047_edit

Besides hand-drawn designs the first Illustrator-designed icon drafts looked like this:

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 3.45.04 pm

Then we went on and put some color on our favorite variation of it:

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 4.44.40 pmFinally, we launched the first beta of swapit with our first beta app icon that looked like this:

swapit_icon_192

For our beta 2 of swapit we changed the icon a little bit by just putting it on a squircle. So the latest version of our app icon looks like this:

swapit_icon_192

3. The swapit Text

Finally, we had to work on the actual swapit text that we would use in places like the header of this blog, our website, the app’s main screen header and other places. We played around with different styles, combinations of fonts, etc. It is important to us to slightly separate “swapit” into “swap” and “it” somehow the person who reads the term to quickly see that there are two parts to that one word. At the same time, the one term needs to look like it comes from the same design and it speaks the same design language.

These were some early drafts we created once we settled on a rough concept of the app icon:

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 11.36.50 am

Later on we played around with some coloring options to see how different colors blend into each other. As our main theme color is green, we experimented with some highlight colors to see how such colors can stand out.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 1.00.09 pm4. Splash Screen

Every app needs to have splash screen – especially when the app is doing some housekeeping work at startup, like swapit does. So we needed to have one as well and after we settled on the name, color, app icon and text, we drafted some splash screens to see how different color combinations look like next to each other. Here is one comparison we looked at:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 3.17.29 pm

Like you can see, we played a bit with gradients as well. In the end, we decided to go without gradients and give our app a bit more of a flat look.

The Current (and Future) State of Swapit

Based on all the design work we have done so far, swapit currently looks like this:

screenshot-splashscreen_with-galaxy-a3screenshot-grid_with-galaxy-a3

So what ever your product is or should be, it is very important for you to choose the right color, style and design language. If you want to communicate a certain message to your users, you need to look at this, work on it and keep improving on it. The way swapit looks like right now, is not the final look. It is just the look we came up with so far.

Absolutely nothing is set in stone and we are always open to change. Based on the great feedback of our beta testers, we already received great input into our design approach and the next beta 3 will look different already. We’ve received many suggestions of what we can improve and especially how we can improve it to make swapit the right app for our target audience.

Have you signed up for the invite-only beta of swapit yet? If not, request an invite at: http://swapit.la

Getting Ready for Beta 2 of Swapit – Call for Beta Testers

After we prepared for our beta 1 of swapit and ran it successfully, we looked at the results of that first beta test and are now getting ready for our beta 2 of swapit.

swapit-blog_betaAccording to the plan we have laid out for our beta test phase, we will launch beta 2 once we have added 50 now beta testers to our list of beta testers. If you are based in Hong Kong, have an Android device and are interested to join, please feel free to:

Sign up for beta 2 at http://swapit.la
by clicking on “REQUEST INVITE” and follow the instructions.
Seats are limited.

Just let us know your name by tweeting us (@swapitla), through Facebook (fb.com/swapitla) or simply contact us.

Please share our call for beta testers to your peers as well. We’d love to get the right people on board for our next beta.

Feedback from Beta 1

We have listened to great feedback we have received from our great beta testers in our beta 1. Thanks a lot everyone for providing great feedback!

We would like to share some insights of the feedback we have actually received through the survey we ran for our first beta test. To keep it simple we purposely chose a quick survey that can be completed within 2 minutes and consisted of 6 questions. One of such questions was:

In terms of priority, which feature is more important to you?

The result matrix for that question looks like:

beta1-survey-q4-results

To interpret the chart correctly, you need to look for the bar with the lowest number which represents the most important feature our beta testers were looking for. Basically, I asked them to rate each feature by importance (1 = very important, 2, 3, 4 = not needed). Hence, the lower the average score of an answer, the higher the importance of that feature.

Conclusion from this survey question: Everyone wants an actual search function, and that’s what you will get. It won’t be available in beta 2 yet, but soon after.

Another question we asked was:

Once swapit is more matured. Are you likely to recommend it to your friends?

The result chart of that is absolutely clear:

beta1-survey-q5-results

Our beta testers love our swapit app and are either likely or even very likely to recommend it to their friends. This is a very strong indicator that we are on the right track – even though this was our first beta of swapit with many more to come.

Project Management Looking Good for Beta 2

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, we are using Asana for project management. We at S4BB Limited are using Asana for several years now because it is free (for small groups) and extremely efficient to use.

The current project schedule for our swapit beta list a couple of beta versions with purposely not all features planned out. We have a general plan in mind, but we are adjusting it as we go depending on our beta tester feedback. So right, we are on track for launching beta 2 soon and our task progress is looking good. Have a look at the overview chart:

asana-task-status

There are still some tasks to complete before we can launch beta 2 of swapit, but we are on track and will complete those within a day or two.

More importantly, we need more beta testers for our beta 2 of swapit. Therefore, we ask all of you who are interested to join, to request your invite on our website: http://swapit.la

Keep in mind that this is still an invite-only beta. So once you have requested your invite, let us know you have signed up and we will see if we can fit you into this new beta of swapit.

Stay tuned for more updates on swapit. We are excited about our next beta and hope to get great feedback from all of you!

Swapit at the Hong Kong ICT Awards 2015

This morning the swapit team was invited to present swapit to a group of judges at the Hong Kong ICT Awards 2015 – Best Mobile Apps Award.

Swapit at Hong Kong ICT Awards 2015

Earlier in January, we have submitted swapit to the awards because we feel we can make difference in Hong Kong’s mobile consumer market. We chose to submit our application i the Consumer and Lifestyle Solutions award stream because that is the field we are uniquely positioned in with our location-based consumer-to-consumer trading platform.

It was great to see some recognition by the pre-screening process that allowed swapit to move to the next stage and actually present to the judges. You can find the slides we used to present swapit right here:

We at swapit were really excited about this opportunity and we hope we could convince the judges of our vision.

Until then, make sure to request your invitation to our private beta at http://swapit.la